Monday, May 10, 2021

"Use Defensively" (Not a Baffert Column)

There's something going on in horse racing today, but I have not really followed it. Instead, I've been thinking about two words we hear so often in betting this game: "Use Defensively". 

"Here are 112 reasons why I hate this 6-5 shot, but I am going to use him defensively"

"That horse should be used defensively"

"I might use her defensively"

I get what they mean, I really do, but I find this phrase usually results in me making a 345-12347-234-1239 pick 5 ticket. 

This concept is at work in verticals as well. We'll hate a chalk - the three horse who is 6-5 - and we love the two, so we want to enter the superfecta pools in a pretty big way. We might construct a ticket that looks something like this:

2-58-58-1458; 58-2-58-1458. We may even throw the 3 for 4th. 

Then, time after time, we see the final ticket we press look like this:

2-358-358-13458; 358-2-358-13458

Yep, we just had to use the 3 horse "defensively", even though the only reason we wanted to bet the race in the first place is because we hate the three horse. 

In my view, this is simply prospect theory, loosely defined as "faced with a risky choice leading to uncertain gains, individuals are risk-averse, preferring solutions that lead to lower expected utility, with a higher certainty".

In my non-economics doctorate plain spoken horseplayer terms: We're scared shitless to lose a ticket. 

I get the whole idea of using a spread when we're uncertain and "using a horse defensively", but my goodness, it might be the most misunderstood, overused, negative ROI term in horseplaying. If we want to beat the game, we should stop letting it rule us.  


Everyone's friend (no not Mattress Mack) the indefatigable Jason Beem is (unofficial title, I think) King of Grants Pass Downs and it opens this evening. Take a look if you're interested. I think Buck Swope will be simulcasting the event live from his basement in his underwear. Details can be found on Beem's ubiquitous twitter feed. 

It fascinating to me how multi-leg exotics have taken over the game. On Saturday, this happened to several of us - the Willis Kid and Gabe Prewitt much more than me. It was a massive miss in a pick 5 where we leaned on a $140 winner as an "A" horse. We're all whining we lost money, but yes, we had a $140 horse as an A horse. $40 win each nets us over $5k; throw a $4 ex and $2 tri, another $10k or something. But we had to just play - and whine - over missing a pick 5. 

Decent interview with Tony Zhou on Beem's podcast (I kind of feel like Jason's publicist with two mentions in these notes, but so be it). Tony is one of the sharper folks out there, in my opinion. 

Last up, Baffert got a positive in the Derby. 

Have a nice Monday everyone. 

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